a novel list
Hopefully I can get these books here to read with my classes in addition to the weekly work they do with their course anthologies. I’m trying to consider reading level, interest level, and novels that will connect them with general US reading culture for their age. Reading level is tough. The older students are behind. When I get the middle school students in a couple of years, I can increase the reading level and revise the lists. The high school students do not have the privilege of attending the school for as long as many of the younger students will have attended when they arrive in 9th grade.
So, the preliminary list is one with books they will enjoy reading and that will challenge them without completely frustrating them, and so alienating them. I asked the students to write about what is the most difficult part of homework at our school. They were unanimous: 1) the reading is too difficult and 2) the work on government and politics is frustrating. The latter is not the teacher’s fault. Because we’re aiming to prepare the students so they can score high enough on college entrance exams to receive scholarships, we have to teach them things that they have absolutely no experience with before reading about them in a book. I’m trying to remember the last time I had such a task handed me as a student. Maybe when I first read Husserl back in the early 90s. I don’t know.
For 9th Grade:
- Richard Adams. Watership Down.
- Ernest Hemingway. The Old Man and the Sea.
- Willa Cather. O Pioneers!
- Ursula K. Le Guin. The Earthsea Trilogy.
- John Steinbeck. The Pearl.
- Ray Bradbury. The Martian Chronicles.
For 10th Grade:
- William Golding. The Lord of the Flies. (Perhaps switch this with the Hemingway in 9th)
- Octavia Butler. Parable of the Sower.
- Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart.
- Pearl S. Buck. The Good Earth.
- Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 (8th grade is reading this. alternative?)
- Herman Melville. Billy Budd.
For 11th Grade:
- Louisa May Alcott. Little Women.
- Henry James. Turn of the Screw and The Aspern Papers.
- Willa Cather. My Antonia.
- Orson Scott Card. Ender’s Game.
- Ernest Hemingway. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway.
- Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo.
For 12th Grade:
- Charles Dickens. Great Expectations.
- William Faulkner. The Unvanquished.
- Mary Shelley. Frankenstein.
- Frank Herbert. Dune.
- John Steinbeck. Grapes of Wrath.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Scarlet Letter.
So many novels I cannot consider because of an utter lack of experience with other people and their histories and cultures. I have no time with our rigorous schedule and curriculum to teach the juniors and seniors, for example, what they’d need to understand in the way of background knowledge in order to read Richard Wright, Alice Walker, or Ralph Ellison as I’d like to with them. Hopefully, I can work with the History instructor throughout the year, and even the Math and Science instructors, to solve this problem.
Additionally, I defo don’t want to pretend to be Black People Expert, as many white Americans seem more than willing to do, for Cambodian young adults who’ve never been privileged enough to venture out of their villages. So, I’ve cut those books from the curriculum. My job is to work with students on broadening and improving their vocabulary, to implement reading strategies and assignments, to evaluate and improve reading comprehension, and to help them become better writers. I’m going to stick to that. Not going to overtly politicize the classroom and determine/insist they think about life and other people in a way that pleases me and satisfies my sense of the world. I’m just going to focus on preparing them for university.
PS: I really wish they’d permit me to focus on Poetry instead of novels.